Fashion Copying: Homage or Just Plain Stealing?
Updated: Dec 24, 2020
Fashion designer, K. Tyson Perez, recently objected to an Instagram post by American designer, Matthew Williams. Williams posted a picture of himself posing in a piece from his first collection for Givenchy. The piece is a black leather rodeo/bucket hat with a prominent zip on the crown.
The hat looks pretty much exactly the same as a hat designed by K. Tyson Perez in 2013 for his brand HardWear Style - as Perez points out.
K.Tyson Perez responded to Matthew Williams’ post, stating that,
“This type of appropriation & creative colonization done by major European brands to small black designers/brands is nothing new, but the **** needs to end.”
Fashion insiders will often talk earnestly about things not being so simple. The argument goes something like this - some copying or “inspiration” is in fact paying homage to an original designer, not stealing at all. Apparently, black designers should be flattered.
No. To my mind, it is simple. To me, paying homage in fashion can only happen if:
the original is a well-known, instantly recognisable, cultural icon;
the creator of the original intended to commercially benefit from their design and did in fact commercially benefit;
the copying “homage” will be recognised as such by the audience to which it’s directed.
To me, it’s just plain stealing if the:
original design is not an instantly recognisable, cultural icon;
the creator of the original design is trying to commercially benefit from their design;
the copying is presented as the copier’s original work; and
the copier has superior economic power and social status as compared with the designer of the original.